My First Con, Costume and Contest!
What started out as a fun Halloween project for 2017, ended up being an award-winning costume, “Best in Show”, at Beckley’s first convention in 2017, Causeacon. I hope by telling you how I made my costume, down to my first experience and being judged at a con inspires you to come out, dress up, support a wonderful cause and HAVE FUN!
My husband Matt and I have always loved Halloween. It’s our favorite holiday and we always love coming up with fun or creative costumes each year. Most of our costumes were modified or made by us in college. We had to get creative and find ways to make things cheap because of the financial strain of, well, evil student loans.
I heard about Causeacon through Facebook and social media. Matt and I had just wrapped up watching “Steampunked” on Netflix and I fell in love with the idea of creating a steampunk costume for Halloween that year because I have always had an interest in skeleton keys, steam trains, and that era. Matt has always been into anime, gaming, and so on and has attended a couple cons before we met. We found out he had to work a booth due to his job and I decided to tag along and see what it was all about. With that in mind I did research and found out about the cosplay contest. I thought “Why not?” life is short, let’s have some fun and I knew this con was for an amazing cause. I knew what kind of costume I wanted but creating the character took a lot of thought. It was a made-up character and not an existing one.
I had already bought my corset, hat and goggles. I kept researching other steampunk outfits. I also love antiquing and we found an old 1930s jukebox camera. On the internet I found some people who made steampunk wings. Some were huge and elaborate and others were simple. I fell in love. I wanted to make wings for my costume. Every time I went to the store, I hit the craft section and my vision just happened. Everything kind of came together from buying jewelry chains for the antique skeleton keys I found at antique stores, to rivets that I hand hammered into my corset to make it look edgier. I just couldn’t quite figure out the wings.
Matt was my knight and shining armor. Well he always is, but he worked on the sketching and doing the math and engineering for a few days. He is super smart. While he did that, we discussed having a weapon prop. So I devised a plan and made my steam powered gun from a water bottle, old wire from a cell phone charger that didn’t work, a water gun, and YouTube videos showing me how to paint a plastic gun to look steampunk with acrylic paint.
The sketch of the wings was going to require a lot of time and money. However, my pawpaw from Italy was a carpenter. After he passed his wood and tools remained locked up in the garage outside where my dad lived. That’s when it all clicked. My dad let us in and Matt took the best wood for the job he could find. I decided I would antique my character with my family history. The wings were made from my pawpaw’s wood. My name Lucia Bourke-White came from my love and my job, plus my Nana’s first name, she was from Brazil. Lucia is also my middle name. Margaret Bourke-White was the first flying female journalist and my degree is in broadcasting. So I got the name and camera covered. My wrist bracelet was made, I added a jasper charm from my Maw-maw and a compass. I felt the little things was what polished the look. The wings took a whole two weeks to finish, full days on weekends and evenings after work. They opened, closed, and flapped mechanically. It took a lot of trial and error but we finally got it! I was so excited to wear my costume.
Con time came. I saw amazing costumes from people who have been doing this for years and I was so amazed. I entered the beginners competition. I had never done a con cosplay contest before. I can remember seeing other costumes and thinking, “Whoa they are so going to win.”
I walked in to the judge’s room and explained everything I had made and modified, plus the story of my character. I was skeptical they would not like it at first because I did my own created character and not one from a show or anime, but they were all so nice and complimented me on the wings and how well everything was put together. I then waited for judging to be completed and everyone lined up for the show. I was placed last in the beginners in line. It was suddenly my turn, I walked across the stage, opened my wings, flapped, tried to pull my gun out to show it, it got stuck, deploying my wings again, they scrapped the wall walking down exiting and it was over. I was thinking, “Oh man, how embarrassing!” The judges announced the top 3 in each category. I didn’t place and didn’t figure I wouldn’t. That was okay with me because the experience was awesome enough but I’d try again next year. Then they said they had one more award to give out. It was best in show. The best costume overall. At the mic one judge said they had trouble pronouncing the name…. I froze…Matt looked back at me from the crowd and mouthed the words “It’s YOU!” and the judge said my name the best she could. I was in complete shock! Almost cried to be honest. A first timer who never went to a con, never did a contest, and the costume my hubby and I made won? I won best in show? It was like a dream.
Everyone was so nice from the vendor room, art gallery, panels, and staff. I remember I couldn’t walk 5 feet without someone wanting me to take a picture. They were amazed at my wings. We thought they were just okay but could be better, but everyone loved them. I couldn’t believe all the wonderful compliments. The whole experience was great. I am so looking forward to Causeacon 2018 .
I’m addicted to Cons now because of this experience and the wonderful people I met. I am now a part of a Sailor Moon Scout group as Sailor Mars, I’ve attended Colossal Con East and Tsubasacon just this year and have lots of new cosplay ideas in the works between both Matt and myself. It brought me and him together closer than we ever have been. I even have a cosplay page now. So in ending, I encourage you to come out have fun, play all the games, dress up, enter the contest, meet new friends, and go broke buying amazing things! See you next year!
– Jennifer Peake, Violet Twirls Cosplay